Anatoly Kroll: I am from jazz

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The UNESCO 36-th General Conference (25 October – 10 November 2011) decided to promulgate 30 April  “INTERNATIONAL JAZZ DAY”. It was regrettable to realize, that the two amazing Russian jazz devotees, composers Oleg Lundstrem and Yury Saulsky did not live up to that day.

But it  may be not accidental, that since old days there is in the musical nature such a notion as triptych. It was now then, that the role of  Anatoly Kroll quite deservingly came into the limelight. Like Lundstrem and Saulsky his jazz portrait  was created not only under the influence of Afro-American masterpieces but through intercommunication of musical cultures (of which he was part himself) of the former USSR as well. Let us address ourselves to  some focal points of  his creative biography in anticipation of his 70-th anniversary.

Quite unexpected and original climax to many was the performance of  Tula Quartet at the International Tallin Jazz Festival in 1967 with Kroll (piano) as its leader , Alexandre Pishikov (sax-tenor), Sergei Martynov (base) and Yury Genbachev (drums), who presented the samples of  modal tonal jazz. In words of Kroll he was longing after the music where image-creating element would be dominating – in intonation, harmony and timbre.

That kind of longing was for the first time demonstrated brightly and distinctively in his conducting (at the age of 17!) the State Variety Orchestra of Uzbekistan with the unforgettable soloist Batyr Zakirov, who sang in oriental, but at the same time avant-garde manner “Arabian Tango”. Arabic tango  and other experiments became  a  kind of precursor of Tallin triumph, where the quartet performed in the manner of John Coltrane but with revelation of Pishikov sax. Kroll himself performed  somewhat like afro-american Charles Mingus (base), whose musicians in ensemble with him played in a way they could never perform individually.

Better than other authors Tallin events were described by Vasily Aksionov, who, in words of Okudzhava, reflected the things in writing as he heard them. One could compare his writings with an essay “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, who admitted, that he never realized, how fearful was the relationship between a musician and his instrument. He should fill that instrument with breath of life. He should make that instrument perform, what the musician wants. In Aksionov’s imagination under the impact of quartet music appeared either the trees covered with napalm  or hunting scenes or a joyous party, or stairways to the sky.

Perhaps not everybody’s nervous system would be able to appreciate that music . But it did not sound like musical madness. There was Kroll’s academic background felt behind this unexpected action, his respect for classics, cultivated into him in the musical college in Chelyabinsk, where already in his difficult postwar  childhood years he demonstrated  an absolute pitch enabling him to detect unmistakably not only any particular note, but any taken simultaneously on keys combination of notes in any reckless combination of sounds.

Since that period years and decades of amazing accomplishments passed first of all in the field of creating and conducting different orchestras.

“Powerful rhythmical drive, united  breath, dramatic pauses, lull before the storm, “cosmic   explosions”, almost physiological  enjoyment of swing…what is qualified as high class, stylish level” Such were enthusiastic reviews about the performance of one of his orchestras -  MKS Band.

His personal kind of “trademark” became a brief  and capacious statement “I am from jazz”. Which, of course, not only reflects the success of Karen Shakhnazarov film “We are from jazz” (1983),  to his music with SOVREMENNIK band, but his entire creative biography as well, combining harmoniously a unique gift of composer and tutor of the whole generation of amazing talents.

As if following UNESCO’s guidelines of “life-long learning”  he,  at the age of 70, does not complete, but continues  musical and educational activities in the Gnesin Academy of music, conducting “Academic Band”, which is inscribed well in the music spontaneity of our life. Its leader responded in a heartfelt manner to UNESCO’s appeal to participate actively in celebrating “International Jazz Day” on 30 April  and organized in the Academy an amazing five hour jazz marathon “All the Colours of Moscow Jazz”, implementing in a way Saulsky’s idea to create “Moscow Jazz Book”, which is yet to be materialized.

Preoccupied deeply with the problem of ensuring continuity  Kroll strives to promote young talents in the hope of appearing in the future a truly Russian face in jazz arts.

Vladimir Sokolov